I believe that
Drosselmeyer has a deeper meaning in The Nutcracker, than just
an eccentric old man. Can he and the music that depicts him be, perhaps
an extension of the composer's fears and anxieties? The separation motif
throughout the ballet is obvious. Can anybody expound on this subject?
Actually the music of No. 4 of the ballet is a little bit strange and
fearsome. There are deep tone colours, esp. in clarinets and horns with
sordino (“chiuso”). Also in no 6 of the ballet—the huge climax
symbolising the growing tree sounds greatly and sinisterly at the same
This shows, that Tchaikovsky was really a master of sounds and spirits.
And he makes the fears of the children hearable and sensible. The vibes of
Drosselmeyer are requirements of the libretto and following the requests
of Petipa and Vsevolozhskii.
Evidently there is no deeper meaning than the programmatic demands.
Nevertheless you could immerse oneself in speculation about the
deepness of the Drosselmeyer music. As you know from the work description
at tchaikovsky-research.org Tchaikovsky was not enthusiastic about the
sujet of the Nutcracker. In the late work of Tchaikovsky the Nutcracker is
the only opus which deals intensively with children and childhood issues.
Tchaikovsky’s own happy childhood was terribly brought to an end, when his
beloved mother early died of cholera. So Tchaikovsky possible had an
ambivalent feeling to “childhood” in general and his own childhood
especially. This ambivalence perhaps is reflected at some parts of the
Nutcracker, especially at Drosselmeyer who is drastically the opposite of
a child and the only old figure in the ballet. Besides of that, during the
composition of the Nutcracker his beloved sister Sasha was ill and died
(but after the composition of No. 4 !). In general Tchaikovsky was
well-balanced in his soul after the crises in the eighteen nineties, but
sometimes he claimed hair loss and the loss of a tooth—like an old man.
It's known that Tchaikovsky in his programmatic music himslef
identified more with female figueres before the crisis of 1877 (Katja in "Groza", Julia in "Romeo and Juliett", "Francesca da Rimini").
After 1877 more male figueres are interesting like Manfred ("Manfred-Symphony"), "Hamlet "and "Voevoda". So Drosselmeyer
also offers an identification pattern for himself.
But it’s just a speculation.
I recommend you to busy yourself with the rather unknown 2nd Suite, Op. 53, composed
ca. 8 years before Nutcracker. The 2nd movement, “reves d’un enfant” could
be interesting for you to discover parallels to the Nutcracker.
Further to the discussion on this subject held by Carlos Denaan and
Rudiger Herpich (last updated on 03 July 2009), I would like to find out
whether this name Drosselmeyster comes from the original fairy-tale by
E.T.A. Hoffmann, or was coined by the librettists.
I would be grateful if someone can advise me on that.
My understanding is that Drosselmeyer (or "Droßelmeier") was named in
Hofmann's original short story Nußknacker und Mausekönig (1816).
There's a summary on Wikipedia at:
The ballet "The Nutcracker(nut……cobnut rather than walnut)" by
P.I.(Pyotr Ilyich) was based on "Histoire d'un casse-noisette" by
Alexandre Dumas(pere), a revision of E.T.A.Hoffmann's "Nussknacker und
E.T.A.Hoffmann, born in Koenigsberg, known by Euler's seven bridges
mathematical "topo"logy, was a jurist as same as P.I. His colleague's
daughter named " Marie" was dead at young age.
Drosselmeyer is the godfather for Fritz and Marie. German word
"Drossel" or "drosseln" means "throttle"(choke), also bird "thrush".
"throat" is the same source with them. Therefore in No.4 of "The
Nutcracker" when Drosselmeyer aarrives at Marie's house, P.I. used modern
Dorian mode and horns with "+"(chiuso).
In autumn 1783 Mozart composed a symphony at Linz, then he did not know
his first son's death of SIDS at summer in Vienna. The main theme in
fourth movement of the Linz Symphony……do---^fa--_mi_re(_♯do^re_♯do^re),
meanwhile the main theme in the overture of "The Nutcracker"……do- ^fa-
Ich hoffe, dass ich Ihnen helfen kann.
I agree with Kamomono Iwao that German dictionaries suggest a number of
interpretations for the word "drossel". It can indeed be a small bird, a
large tree, a part of the animal anatomy (trachea), or a choke (throttle,
Incidentally "drosel" was transliterated into the P. Tchaikovsky's
native Russian as "дроссель". It is used exclusively as a technical tern
in electrical engineering. And describes an inductive reactance, a wound
component (coil), used to suppress higher frequency harmonics or an AC
component in DC bus-bar circuits of rectifier filters.
In the old days of thermionic valves (vacuum tubes), a drossel (choke)
was a standard component in every home electronic gear (radio & TV
receives, tape recorders, LP players, audio power amplifiers, jukeboxes
I am trying to find out however, whether E. Hoffmann assigned any
special, perhaps philosophical, significance to his character when he
coined the name Droselmeyer. According to one of the German dictionary,
"meyer" can be interpreted as a "light source". Therefore the meaning of
"drosselmeyer " appears to me as enigmatic.
I am ready to accept however that for a German-speaking person the
meaning of "drosselmeyer" can be plain and obvious. And I would appreciate
any comments from someone who knows better.